Why a (turned on) camera does not turn us on?
Or how can we change the world, without being seen?!
Yes, Covid-19 changed us all. The virus changed the way we work, we study, we have fun and ultimately, we live. It changed our emotional perceptions of the world around us and the amount of money in our wallets. It made us rethink our social connections, relationships and values. Covid-19 changed the timing of our own changes.
And yet, I cannot stop thinking about the things it did not change – the constants it did not affect and influence at all, the roots it did not manage to eradicate.
It did not erase our deeply entrenched characteristics which we envision to determine us as personalities – namely our identity.
We are still utterly, beyond word, afraid. Afraid to fail, afraid to be embarrassed, afraid to put ourselves in the spotlight, now more than ever.
I continue listening and reading business leaders opinions and advices how now is the time to shine and be brave, but I cannot imagine this for the very fact we are still unable to turn the camera on.
For the past 2 and a half months I asked myself this question over and over again. I have some theories I would like to share with you.
Generally speaking, I am not a camera person myself – I have used FaceTime option a couple of times in my life; I am speaking with my family via Viber which in 99% of the cases is with the camera on because they are abroad, mostly to say “hi” to my nephews who are 6 and 8 years old. I genuinely think they will not remember me when I see them 2 times per year; I do not want them to forget my face and treat me like a stranger.
There are these people, who have already been used to Zoom and other video platforms for communication and collaboration. Let’s skip them for the purpose of this writing. There’s room for improvement, though – for sure, we must become better at virtual meetings.
So as for the others, I can list:
3 main reasons why people do not turn their camera on during video calls:
You are just another non-tech person
I bet you have this one colleague who is living in the last century – maybe he does not have Facebook profile, he does not believe in the power of technologies and he is as happy as he could be; maybe his camera is broken, or his PC is too old to sustain the program you are using for team communication; maybe, he (or she) has forgotten the password of this email he uses only for subscriptions; now he needs to reinstall but he has forgotten where the battery charger is; maybe, this person has problems with the audio which is far more important than the camera and as ironic as it may seem we are just happy he is in the call in the first place; forget the stupid camera;
You are too ugly (and stupid)
Yes, because if you were ugly and smart, it wouldn’t have been such an issue; one of the first advises I read for working from home was “dress as if you are going to the office” and I cannot agree more; I tried a couple of times and consciously decided to skip this golden rule; now I regret it, just to be fair; yes, a bit of make-up make us feel prettier, doing our hair even more; staying in a t-shirt is not so sexy (if you are not one of these girls, but in most of the cases most of us are not); Once, I must confess, I participated in a webinar with a tower in my hair, just after having a shower; the point is you do not feel representable and that is a good enough reason to not turn the camera on;
The wall is now virtual
Nobody likes walls but we cannot live without them; we try to break them, we try to destroy them but we are essentially builders; we are fans of big, solid structures we can lean on when in trouble; have you paid attention to the fact that when you are presenting you are either hiding behind a table or staying close to a wall with your back facing the wall; it is as if you do not want other people behind, as if you are secured; on a phycological level it is quite logical; so now imagine having this wall in front of you, in the form of a virtual camera, that is so easy to turn off – just a click away; it’s so easy, you do not even notice it. Everything is so much easier – speaking, presenting, arguing, looking bored, sleeping, thank goodness, technologies exist. When the camera is off it is easier – to be brave in our fear, to not sustain the questioning eyes of others or hide our body language.
For a fact.
The first kind of people, I accept – I am not angry with them. They exist for the balance of nature. The second kind of people, I understand – we are all human, after all.
The third kind of people (the focus of this article), I want to accept and I try to understand. However, I mainly question. And the most dangerous of all is when it is mixed together with the previous two because usually it is accompanied, very conveniently, with an excuse, explanation you firmly believe in, so strongly it becomes a habit, just before you realised it.
Lights. Camera. Action.
I am wondering, how we are supposed to change the world, if we ignore the camera – our face in the digital world we inhabit. We continue hiding behind closed doors, now virtually, behind the screen, the nickname, the avatar, always in a hurry and in full speed – fast to share, fast to be forgotten.
Aren’t we supposed to glow now and stand out? To see ourselves with eyes wide open?
I am wondering how we are supposed to change the world, if we don’t change ourselves first?
Experiment, try something new, just for a change. Get out of the comfort zone, you might like the new you. Maybe this is you. How well do we know ourselves, after all, isn’t change the only constant in life?
TURN ON. I know you will like it.
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